We learned two very important things about our new President on his very first day in office: He’s the same guy as President that he was as a candidate, and the media would be well-advised to exercise caution in the news they report on him, fake or otherwise (not that they will).
Though Donald Trump certainly looks the part and projects the stature of a President, there will be no pivot to the time-honored Presidential bearing for him. When he addressed an enthusiastic gathering of the CIA rank-and-file, he delivered a crucial message of full support for the intelligence community. But, as came to be his signature campaign strategy (if you can call it that), he went off the grid and down well-worn bunny trails: from reruns of the election, the size of the inaugural crowd, to, of course, the dishonest media. Same schtick we’ve come to know.
And we should hardly be surprised. One day earlier, his inaugural address sent a similarly unambiguous signal that he will be the same person in the White House as he was on the campaign trail. His strikingly populist appeal to the working man was the same on Inauguration Day as at that memorable midnight rally in Michigan on the final day of the campaign, and the dozens that preceded it.
If ever there was a time for him to “act presidential,” to burnish his credentials as commander-in-chief, it would certainly be in his first official appearance following the inauguration. But to presume he would do so is to presume that he ever follows convention. Not this President.
Equally revealing is just how he intends to handle an establishment media that built him up for ratings, then tore him down too late to save themselves from the President’s wrathful contempt.
Trump’s newly minted Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, not scheduled to brief the media until the Monday after inauguration, called an impromptu briefing the day after Trump was sworn in to tear into the media for their reports that Trump had removed the statue of Martin Luther King Jr. from the oval office, and that crowds for the inauguration were relatively small and disappointing.
The same chattering class that has been wrong about Trump from the moment he descended that escalator in Trump Tower 18 months ago, immediately piled on with their disapproving commentary and, incredibly, advice. Oh, how unpresidential to react this way to these minuscule matters of statues and attendance. How trivial. How petty. How small.
What Trump and Spicer were doing should be quite clear to those not wearing the blinders of the established order. It might best be termed a renewal of the “Broken Window Theory” of law enforcement; only this time applied to the media.
This theory famously and successfully employed by Mayor Rudy Giuliani in lowering the crime rate in New York was simple to understand, if not enforce. The perpetrators of low-level crimes like breaking a window are to be aggressively prosecuted. That, in turn, sends a signal to those who would commit more serious crimes: if we send a guy to jail for breaking a window, just think what we’ll do to you.
It worked. Violent crime dropped by 56% during the Mayor’s eight years in office.
Likewise, if the media is called out on a small lie, imagine the vitriol that will flow from the White House if they lie about matters of genuine significance.
Spicer’s beat-down on the media and the not-so-subtle message that accountability goes two ways is unlikely to produce results as successful as Giuliani’s – after all, this is the same media that did everything in their power – and beyond – to assure Trump would never be elected. It’s difficult if not impossible to envision them backing off. Unless, perhaps, they are convinced it will reduce their already-shrunken credibility to levels so low it becomes perilous to the Republic in general and Freedom of the Press specifically.
Perhaps one of these days, the #nevertrump media will look in the mirror and accept that, despite their best efforts to disqualify him, Donald Trump accomplished something they thought unthinkable when they were universally predicting his defeat: He has all but vanquished them. He did so simply by winning the election.
President Trump is the same person as candidate Trump. And it took all of one day for the media to know for certain that, while their approach to him may not change, neither will his to them.